Devi Sridhar, professor of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, said it was vital to drive numbers down and then stop reinfections from elsewhere.

“Either we live with daily restrictions and lockdown cycles, but we have open borders, or we close the borders and we largely get back to normal,” she said. “People have to make a choice. Do you want your summer holiday or do you want to go to the pub? Next summer will be the chance to clear it. 

“A vaccine isn’t going to be a silver bullet and we don’t have a pan-European strategy, so if we keep the borders open countries keep going down like dominoes. The Government is trying to protect business, but uncontrolled transmission is far worse for the economy. Early intervention and strong measures gives people more confidence.”

However, Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, has warned that such an approach is not feasible, saying: “The notion of eliminating Covid from anywhere is just not right, because it will come back. Elimination strategies… I think that’s very unlikely.”

Full lockdown and wait 

Many scientists believe Britain is now seeing a deadly second Covid wave because restrictions were imposed too late and lifted too early.

A full lockdown that lasts until the virus is very low, or drugs and a vaccine are available, may be the only way of getting out of the cycle.

Dr Stephen Griffin, associate professor at the University of Leeds school of medicine, said: “The simple fact is that measures were relaxed too soon and too much, the tone of messaging was that the worst was over and much of the support that allowed those least well off or most clinically vulnerable to take appropriate precautions was removed.

“How to avoid lockdown cycles? Simple – make them count and face the short-term hardship for the greater long-term good.”

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